It has long enough now since Aaron Ramsey returned to first-team football for Arsenal following his 12 month absence from a leg shattered by Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross; the time for excuses is over and the question must be asked: will Aaron Ramsey ever become the player he once looked destined to be?
Last season, such was the Welshman’s initial spurt of impressive form, many were already claiming him to be the heir to the departed Cesc Fabregas in the Gunners’ midfield.
Indeed, a quite wonderful performance in the 5-3 victory at Chelsea saw many pundits particularly picking out Ramsey’s contribution with his tireless running and quite gorgeous passing at times. Gary Speed even made the youngster his Wales captain and immediately saw his faith repaid as Ramsey scored twice in a superb run of form for both club and country.
However, Ramsey’s form eventually deteriorated to such an extent that after losing his place in the Arsenal side to Tomas Rosicky, himself not exactly a regular since his return from injury in 2009, a limp performance against Norwich at the end of the season brought jeers from his own supporters at the Emirates.
No matter, we were told. It was after all basically Ramsey’s first full season as a first-team regular at the highest level. Add into the fact that he was recovering from the trauma of such a serious injury and a loss of form and fitness became understandable. It was the coming the season where we would truly see the extent of Ramsey’s progression as a footballer.
Once again however, a promising start seems to have degenerated only this time at a much earlier and more alarming rate. Good performances against Manchester City and Olympiakos saw Ramsey handed a starting role against Chelsea, only for the Welshman to play poorly, displaying all the hallmarks of his disjointed performances from the last campaign: a lack of composure, physical weakness, a carelessness in possession and a tendency to hold onto the ball for too long.
A further poor performance at Norwich followed before the Champions League clash with Schalke saw Ramsey produced arguably his worst performance ever in an Arsenal shirt. Admittedly, the 21-year-old was hardly alone in an insipid Gunners display that resulted in a deserved 2-0 home defeat. However, in truth, Ramsey looked incapable of doing anything of note. His choice of pass was often poor and lacked precision while he added next to nothing going forward or defensively. In truth, it was a wonder that he completed 90 minutes such was the ineptitude of his display.
It has not been the easiest few weeks for Ramsey. His performances have been such that new Wales manager Chris Coleman felt forced to strip him of the captaincy, feeling the weight of the armband was adding too much pressure on the young midfielder’s showings. Additionally, Ramsey often does not look to be enjoying himself on the football pitch. Instead, he often looks rather laboured, frustrated that he cannot seem to execute what he wants to do with the ball.
Perhaps Arsene Wenger’s use of him has not helped with the manager appearing unconvinced as to Ramsey’s best role in the side. Last season he was nominally used as the Gunners main attacking midfield focal point, a shift from his original introduction into the side as a deeper lying midfield player. This year, with Santi Cazorla firmly in charge of playmaking matters, Ramsey has reverted to a deeper role yet appears to lack the physical aptitude or nous on the ball to play in such a pressure-cooker position. Additionally, the Welshman has even appeared in the wider positions at times this term, a position where he has looked wholly uncomfortable, with the Schalke match a prominent example. Clearly, a jack of all trades Ramsey is not. What he needs at this moment in time is stability in terms of his position and role in the side. Judging by his current performances, that looks to be in a deeper midfield role, slightly ahead of the Gunners nominal “holding” midfielder Mikel Arteta. Of course however, that only creates another problem for the former Wales captain once the first choice for that role, Abou Diaby, eventually regains fitness, without even mentioning the fit-again Jack Wilshere, who will also have a firm eye on that position.
Some may attribute it as simply a poor run of form but the truth is that Ramsey has been in a trough for nearly 12 months now and the question must be asked whether he is capable anymore of unlocking the potential that seemed bursting within him before that fateful day at the Britannia in February 2010. If he is to re-find both his form and fitness, one would have to say that the pressure is on to do so soon if he is to rescue his Arsenal career.